It occurs to me that it’s been a few years since the last Sonic the Hedgehog game, and what with a brand new movie recently out focusing on the character, I’m kind of shocked there isn’t anything out there to push the next video game outing for the blue blur. Especially now, when the iron is about as hot as it’s going to get.
There’s no doubt that Sega and Sonic Team have got something cooking up behind the closed doors of their studios. But they’re keeping it strangely close to their chest considering now would have been the perfect time to start marketing their next big Sonic project. Although, maybe they’ve realised that they might not actually need to rush another one out and spoil all this good will.
It’s been two years since we got both one of the best and one of the worst Sonic games to come out, and they managed to do it within four months of one another. I’ve said it before, but that was an eye opening experience for me. One that made me realise both what I actually enjoyed about the franchise, and that 95% of said franchise was one ultimately aimed at children.
A fact reinforced by the tone and content of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Not exactly something that came as a shock to the general video game fan.
2021 will the 30th anniversary of the character. Considering we got the celebration of the franchise that was Sonic Generations for the 20th, there must be something cooking in there for this one. Also, the fact that Generations is 10 years old makes me feel very old also. Welp, after doing some searching online, there is something being cooked up, a project under simply titled “Sonic 2020”.
Announced on the 20th of January, the news got very little traction. The project itself promises to release new content on the 20th of every month. While all we’ve got so are images, twitter icons and banners, it still seems very slow and very early to drawn any conclusions from what this will eventually turn into.
The text on the page, translated from Japanese reads as follows:
“In addition, the Sonic Channel is recruiting fan art for Sonic and releasing original design wallpapers and calendars. A variety of related events are scheduled for 2020, so watch out for “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which is set to gain momentum ahead of its 30th anniversary in 2021.”
After further digging, I discovered that there is a new game on the books, one simply called “Sonic the Hedgehog”. It’s been shockingly difficult to find any concrete information about this upcoming game. What with this being the forth video game to have the simple title, and the movie consuming all internet search traffic having the same name.
But from what I can gather through fan sites and other, less than official, sources the game is going to be a reboot of the franchise being made by Sonic Team and Insomniac. Announced at least year’s E3, the game seemed to breeze under everyone’s radar.
And yet, despite being a reboot, the game is pointedly not “going back to basics”. Rather, the announcement team said they’d be taking the most popular elements from all of the previous games in the franchise and mix them with some new ideas to make the “ultimate Sonic experience”.
Looking back at the franchise over the years, it’s not a lack of novel ideas and creativity that has been holding it back. What’s been the biggest problem with games like Forces, Boom and Lost World has been simply how they feel to play. They’ve had great ideas, great design and great people behind them, but have failed to execute on them fully in any truly meaningful way.
Having the fog cleared from my vision, and being truly honest with myself as a “Sonic fan”, which I still am; do we really need a new one? Being very honest, there are only really two good Sonic games in the 3D era, but no great ones. Sonic Colors was a very well rounded platformer that emulated the original games, keeping story to a minimum and focusing on gameplay.
It’s a game I’d love to see a HD re release of on the Switch.
And Sonic Generations, which was an amazing nostalgia piece that stretched out nine stages and three boss stages with a ton of padding that ultimately make the game worse. And as much as I enjoyed those games for their own reasons, it’s in spite of their gameplay, which feels as floaty and lacks the natural momentum of the original games.
And that’s why it took a game like Sonic Mania to go back to the style and gameplay of the original 2D, sprite based games to make me realise that that might be the only place where Sonic can truly shine to be, the 30 year old fan who grew up with the character. Because let’s be honest, while I can badmouth Forces, Lost World and Boom all day, for the kids these games were made for, they’re amazing.
At this point, it feels like there are two categories for Sonic games coming out; the games being made for the character’s intended audience, which contains the vast majority of the games coming out in the past two decades, and the games being made for the adult fans who grew up playing the original games, which contains a bunch of failed attempts and Sonic Mania.
Since writing this post, I found an article on Reddit apparently leaking details on two new Sonic projects. The first being one called Sonic Redux; a 2D game very much in the vein of the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush titles that appeared on the older Nintendo handhelds. Those games, for what I played of them, were the best examples of what made Sonic good being effectively transferred into a more modern generation. Being made with a reported release date of the Holidays in 2021.
The other is a 3D game starring a lesser known character; Blaze the Cat. A Switch exclusive, if the leak is to be believed, the game is being made in the style of Colors and Generations, and being lead by Christian Whitehead. If that last fact is true, then that is reason enough for this game to garner some attention.
Whitehead, who is undoubtedly working on some kind of followup to Sonic Mania, and also working on the sequel to the heavily Sonic inspired Freedom Planet certainly has his hands full with Sonic projects. I said before I was excited to see what this guy would be working on next, and as the one guy who I believe truly does understand what makes the Sonic franchise great to play, it’s the big question if his reinvention of the classic style Sonic game can make the transition and finally get a 3D game right.
I truly have no problem letting Sonic go and let him be the children’s franchise he was always meant to be. But at the same time, it would be remiss of Sega it ignore the passionate/insane adult pocked of their fandom who have been following their franchise since it started close to 30 years ago.
Just like with the Pokemon franchise, there are stories to be told and games to be made that could really touch these kinds of fans. But unlike the Pokemon franchise, that transition is much harder to make with Sonic without it coming off as really damn weird. You only have to see the images results I found when gathering pictures for this post for that to be painfully obvious.
I’m torn, but as long as we get one game like Sonic Generations once in a blue moon, I’m more than happy to relegate my fandom of the franchise to a healthy distance and no longer feel that inevitable twang of disappointment again. But I am still a fan and I would be really sad if we never did get another great Sonic game that the original fan can still really enjoy.